My older brother taught me and my little brother to play chess when we small children. Maybe he had hopes of turning us into little Bobby Fischers, or maybe he just wanted someone to play with. My little brother was never very interested in chess, but I became mildly obsessed, as is my tendency with all things.
Once I was in school I found out that there were whole books written about chess. Cool. I learned a 4 move checkmate and promptly used it on all my schoolmates who played chess. I even tried using it on a older player one time, who snorted with derision that I would even think of using it.
I fell in love with those books filled with chess problems-famous openings, famous end games, what to do in the middle game. Many of these books were out of my league, they were filled with odd names-both for players and for the moves they had made famous. I really loved the chess problems-and I found that I could solve them if I just worked hard enough at it.
But I was not a real chess player. I never used a time clock. Never competed in any competitions. Was only in a school chess club for one semester, where I was often beaten, but did win a few games here and there.
Then I grew up and discovered computers. A friend had one of those nifty little chess games where the computer moved the pieces as if by magic. I played a number of computer chess games and found that I could never find the exact level I needed. The play was always either too easy or too hard.
I met a guy who works at Ren Faires playing chess one time. It had been years since I played a real person, so I took my time, thought about my moves, thought about the game in three or four moves, thought about the end game and how many moves I was to checkmate. I gave the game my full concentration and I beat someone who plays chess for a living-albeit at a Ren Faire. He was totally shocked by this and demanded a rematch, which he won handily.
The concentration required to play chess with a good player is too much work for me. At the same time, playing with someone I can beat in fifteen moves is not really much fun either. So I have pretty much given up chess. I still play the computer once in a while, but that’s not the same. I still work the occasion chess problem. Still love watching Waiting For Bobby Fischer and the occasional chess tournaments that make it to PBS.
I guess I’m happy enough to be a spectator. Hmm, I wonder if my older brother still plays?